Will Online Education Kill the University?

Should browsing the internet replace earning a university degree? According to Bill Gates, free lectures and information on the web “will be better than a single university,” in comments he made at the Techonomy conference in Lake Tahoe, CA on August 6, 2010 (TechCrunch.com). He went on to state that while traditional educational institutions are vital for grades K-12, post-secondary education is too expensive and too difficult to make getting a conventional degree worth it.  Gates argues that the availability of free internet lectures and the sheer amount of online information can provide a better learning environment for people to pursue their passions than a traditional degree program can.

While Gates’ argument is compelling, he doesn’t address freelance internet study’s primary weakness – diversity. One of the great things about the internet is the ability to tailor news and entertainment to your own individual interests. However, if your education is centered around studying your primary interests, then you are unlikely to expand your knowledge beyond your comfort zone. Why would you waste your time learning about something you find boring, when you could download a streaming video on a subject you truly enjoy? One of the hallmarks of traditional degree programs is the range of classes required to graduate. While completing general education requirements, you are exposed to a wide variety of classes and subjects, all designed to push you beyond what you would study on your own, and to challenge your opinions by presenting information you normally wouldn’t read. This exposure to unfamiliar material is critical to developing critical thinking and reasoning skills, and has the potential to uncover unexpected passions and strengths.

The internet has revamped the approach to traditional education – most universities offer many classes if not entire degrees online. With more students working while in school or going back to school while in careers, the internet can help make furthering your education a reality. Online degree programs offer the best of both worlds – a variety of classes to expand your education, and the convenience of online course delivery to fit your busy schedule. Check out what online education options are available today!


  1. Joseph Oct 20, 2010 at 10:12 am

    One problem with learning online on your own is the potential for distraction, and a lack of structure to lead you down the right path. Watching a lecture or video here or there is much different that the support and structure you would get from either a traditional university or an online class.

    A college class, online or traditional, opens up discussion and dives deeper and calls upon students later (through tests or papers) to better formulate and express their thoughts on the topic.

  2. Mike Oct 19, 2010 at 12:45 pm

    When I first started college I was very reluctant to enroll in “breadth” courses. As a web designer, when was I ever going to write folklore literature? Or follow migration patterns of elk in North America? When was I ever going to need to apply the fundamental theorem? While I admit some of the courses I took were severe wastes of time, I took many classes I will never regret. Classes that I would have normally have avoided like the plague served to enrich my appreciation for the country I live in, or gave me a better understanding of the psychological struggles people battle. Some of the lessons I learned were truly invaluable, and they’re not things I would have found by googling on my own merits.

    Still, I think Gates has a good point, and we should seek education wherever it is available to us. I think the online route is the perfect avenue for many people, and I hope more and more people can take advantage of whatever opportunities they have.

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